Golden-winged Warbler Geolocator Placement
Conservation

Golden-winged Warbler Geolocation Project

Photo: Audubon Vermont
Conservation

Golden-winged Warbler Geolocation Project

Our Golden-winged Warbler Geolocation Project is helping us better understand the full life cycle of Golden-winged Warblers and Blue-winged Warblers in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. The project will determine habitat requirements on breeding grounds, during migration, and on wintering areas.  This project will allow us to determine migration routes and stopover habitat used along the way to their wintering areas in Central and South America.

Beginning in May of 2016, Audubon Vermont's conservation biologists Margaret Fowle and Mark LaBarr started the process of placing geolocators on a total of 19 Golden-Winged Warblers and 18 Blue-winged Warblers.  They had a short window of time to work with. Golden-winged Warblers stop their breeding-season singing by the end of June and do not respond as frequently to the decoys and recorded calls used to catch them. 

The birds returned in the spring of 2017, and Mark and Margaret were able to retrieve 9 geolocators from birds throughout the Southern Champlain Valley. Seven of these were from Golden-winged Warblers, a 37% recapture rate while only 2 (11%) were from Blue-winged Warblers. Birds were recovered in Hinesburg, Charlotte, Weybridge and West Haven.

GWWA_recapture
Golden-winged Warbler recaptured during Geolocation study. Photo: Audubon Vermont

Audubon Vermont worked with Dr. Amber Roth of the University of Maine and her graduate student Anna Buckardt on this project. Dr. Roth trained our staff in the geolocator harnessing techniques and she and her student Anna Buckardt are currently interpreting the data collected. Preliminary results show that Vermont’s Golden-winged Warblers winter from Colombia to Costa Rica while our Blue-winged Warblers winter in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Anna continues to analyze the data to determine migration routes. Preliminary data suggest our birds migrate down the Eastern Flyway in the fall and return through the Mississippi Flyway in the spring. Our work in Vermont is part of a collaborative effort also taking place in Wisconsin, New York, Nicaragua, and North Carolina and should result in peer reviewed publications in 2018. 

Get a glimpse of Golden-winged Warbler geotagging by Audubon Vermont at The Nature Conservancy's Buckner Preserve in West Haven, Vermont.  Thank you to The Nature Conservancy Vermont Chapter's Katie Getts for putting together this video.

The Nature Conservancy has been a key partner in the geolocator project as well as in managing for Golden-winged Warblers at their West Haven Reserve.

Funding for the project has come from the Wharton Foundation, Vermont Electric Power Company and other private foundations.
 

In June of 2016 Audubon Vermont's teacher/naturalist Gwendolyn Causer tagged along with Mark and Margaret to place geolocators on Golden-winged Warblers in Charlotte, Vermont.  This slideshow documents the early-morning activity.

Audubon Vermont's conservation biologists Margaret Fowle and Mark LaBarr scout for Golden-winged Warblers. Photo: Audubon Vermont
Audubon Vermont's Margaret Fowle and Mark LaBarr place poles for setting a mist net to capture a Golden-winged Warbler. Photo: Audubon Vermont
Once the mist nets are opened, to a height of approximately 15 feet, they become nearly invisible in misty conditions. Photo: Audubon Vermont
Mark LaBarr mounts a Golden-winged Warbler wooden decoy to lure in the birds. Photo: Audubon Vermont
Margaret Fowle places audio speakers next to the Golden-winged Warbler decoy for broadcasting the birdsong. Photo: Audubon Vermont
Mark and Margaret watch and wait for a Golden-winged Warbler to enter the mist net. Photo: Audubon Vermont
Mark LaBarr quickly and efficiently removes the captured Golden-winged Warbler from the mist net. (Golden-winged Warbler decoy in the foreground.) Photo: Audubon Vermont
Margaret Fowle and Mark LaBarr collect physiological data on the Golden-winged Warbler for the banding process. Photo: Audubon Vermont
Mark LaBarr determines the weight of the Golden-winged Warbler. Photo: Audubon Vermont
Margaret Fowle uses a crochet hook to delicately strap the geolocator to the back of the Golden-winged Warbler. Photo: Audubon Vermont
Each feather of the Golden-winged Warbler must be carefully checked for proper alignment with the geolocator straps, which are crafted from "Stretch Magic" jewelry elastic cording. Photo: Audubon Vermont
Golden-winged Warbler successfully tagged! Photo: Audubon Vermont
Margaret Fowle photo-documents the Golden-winged Warbler geolocator tagging. Photo: Audubon Vermont
Golden-winged Warbler wing bars help distinguish from Blue-winged Warblers and Golden/Blue-winged Hybrids. Photo: Audubon Vermont

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Audubon Vermont would like to thank our project collaborators:

  • University of Maine
  • Audubon North Carolina
  • Audubon New York
  • Sterling Forest
  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department
  • Private Landowners
  • Vermont towns/public properties who allowed access for Audubon Vermont to tag birds:
    • Geprags Community Park
    • Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge

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